In the midst of balmy summer days, it’s only natural to reach for something light. Rosés, Vinho Verde and Sauvignon Blanc are all winning choices for crisp and easy-to-drink recommendations.
However, if you’re attending a barbecue, you may want something with more structure, body and tannins. When choosing wine to go with steak or a charbroiled burger, the situation may call for a red. But that doesn’t mean you can’t put a bit of chill on your bottle to better enjoy sipping in the summer sun. Some reds can even find their flavors enhanced at lower temperatures.
Quick Tips on Chilling Red Wine
• Chilled red wine should be between 50°F–55°F.
• Chill the bottle until it reaches the refrigerator’s temperature and then take it out an hour before serving. Or leave the wine in the refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.
• If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, place the bottle in a bucket of ice water and table salt to chill the wine faster.
• If you’re on the go, try an insulated tote. For single bottles, a sleeve kept in the freezer can keep things cool longer.
• Lighter-bodied wines with higher acidity prefer lower temperatures.
Many red wines like Cinsault, Zweigelt, Gamay and Pinot Noir benefit from a little extra time in the fridge.
Cinsault’s thin skin has delicate tannins that make it ideal for chilling, and while it has some body, flavors like strawberry and red cherries are further accentuated when cool.
Zweigelt often is often renowned for its notes of chocolate and sour cherry. Its restrained tannins also mean wines made from this grape are a perfect candidate to spend a little extra time in the ice bucket.
Gamay, perhaps best known for its use in Beaujolais, can range from an easy-drinking wine to something more concentrated and ageworthy. Make sure you grab a bottle lighter in body if you plan on keeping it cool.
Depending on where it is produced, Pinot Noir can exhibit a wide range of aromas and textures. Look for bottles from the New World, as these tend to be more fruit-forward and lighter in body, meaning they’ll take well to a chill.
So grab one of our recommended picks below, fire up the grill and get ready to do summer right.
Brewer-Clifton 2017 Pinot Noir (Sta. Rita Hills); $40, 94 points. There’s a purity of fruit and herb to Greg Brewer’s style that shines through even on this appellation blend. Aromas of candied raspberry and strawberry pair with damp sage, pine oil and green peppercorn on the nose. The pristine palate’s crisp pomegranate and fresh raspberry flavors are instantly cut by eucalyptus and green tobacco leaf. Editors’ Choice. –Matt Kettmann
Failla 2017 Björnson Vineyard Gamay Noir (Eola-Amity Hills); $30, 92 points. Once again Ehren Jordan has made a stellar Oregan Gamay, fermenting whole clusters with native yeast. The entrancing aromas of huckleberry and blackberry lead into a fruit-packed core that adds sour cherry to the mix. The wine is tangy and bright, with outstanding depth and definition. Editors’ Choice. —Paul Gregutt
Wilson Creek 2016 Winemaker’s Select Cinsault (Temecula Valley); $50, 92 points. Aromas of dark red-cherry paste, star anise, mace, tar and rose show on the nose of this bottling. There’s a rocky, loamy kick to the palate, followed by rounded plum, jasmine tea and strawberry flavors. —M.K.
Craven 2017 Cinsault (Stellenbosch); $35, 91 points. There’s an herbal overlay on the nose of this wine, with scents of fresh mentholated herbs and fynbos that preside over the red currant, pomegranate and cranberry fruit core. The medium-weight palate offers bright acidity and a precise, focused impression, with pointed red fruit flavors that are ripe yet brisk and refreshing. The fine tannins lend a satiny texture, while the finish leads with red fruit flavors that then veer back into herbal, earthy territory. Vine Street Imports. —Lauren Buzzeo
Rodney Strong 2016 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $25, 91 points. Bright in acidity and cradled moderate oak, this wine shows a crunchiness to the tannins and bright bursts of cranberry, pomegranate and orange peel flavors. Elements of baking spice dot the finish, contrasting well against the rich fruit. —Virginie Boone
Johanneshof Reinisch 2017 Zweigelt (Thermenregion); $18, 90 points. Smoke and vanilla frames the ripe plum fruit on the nose. The palate is a picture of balanced freshness that presents juicy red cherry edged with the tar and smoke of oak. The finish is dry and elegant. Circo Vino. —Anne Krebiehl MW
Judith Beck 2017 Zweigelt (Weinland Österreich); $20, 90 points. Ripe, almost jammy, plum and black cherry on the nose have a funky gamy edge. The palate is bright, fresh and vivid, with fresh fruit, fine tannins and just a little rusticity. This is a lovely wine for a country picnic. VOS Selections. —A.K.
Loveblock 2018 Pinot Noir (Central Otago); $30, 90 points. While this organically farmed Pinot isn’t as fruit forward as previous vintages, it makes up for it with an abundance of fresh herbs: thyme, rosemary and fennel seeds, with some leafy secondary characters and red-berry fruit in the mix too. Mouthwatering acidity and crunchy fruit are balanced by sandy tannins. Drink this light-bodied bottle a little chilled, with a summer meal seasoned with the same freshly plucked herbs as the nose suggests. Terlato Wines International. —Christina Pickard
Patrick Tranchand 2017 Coeur de Gamay (Saint-Amour); $22, 89 points. Playing on the name of Saint-Amour (named after a Roman soldier), this wine celebrates Gamay. Its juicy red-cherry flavors are bright while allowing space for tannins and aging potential. Fruit of the Vines, Inc. —Roger Voss
The Dot 2018 Austrian Cherry Zweigelt (Niederösterreich); $13, 88 points. Juicy, rounded and rather ripe cherry notes on the nose carry seamlessly onto the light but smooth palate. A dash of vanilla makes the cherry seem all the creamier on this easy-drinking little fruit bomb. This will also work well when chilled. Taub Family Selections. Best Buy. —A.K.
Hawthorne 2016 Gamay (Old Mission Peninsula); $18, 88 points. A pretty pale-ruby wine, this Gamay offers aromas of blueberry and foraged blackberry melded with bramble, wild herb and violet. More violet and juicy flavors of cranberry and pomegranate are touched by vanilla, with garrigue adding depth. The acidity is bright but a little unruly, but a spice note on the end offers more complexity to this lovely quaffable red. —Fiona Adams